…with a quick, SPOILER FREE review of this week's DOCTOR WHO S7B installment, Cold War.
This Mark Gatiss-scripted tale finds the Doctor (Matt Smith) and companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) on a Soviet sub beneath the North Pole in 1983. There's something in the ice…now it's on the boat…but what happens next far transcends the 'bug hunt on the Red October' vibe we’ve been getting from the episode’s promos, and firmly establishes Cold War as one of the best (could it be THE best?) episode of Season/Series 7. And, really, how can any episode which offers THIS not be pretty great from the outset?
More on Cold War shortly, but first...
BBC ISSUES VIDEO FROM FILMING OF THE DW 50th ANNIVERSARY EPISODE
BBC has issued videos from the set of DOCTOR WHO's 50th Anniversary episode, which is currently filming at various UK locales.
The second video features Jemma Redgrave, who we recently learned will be reprising her role as Kate Stewart - daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - who headed up UNIT (a high-end military task force devoted to alien/paranormal happenings) in the 'classic' series. Kate, introduced in this The Power of Three episode earlier this year, followed in her father's footsteps and is now heading up UNIT herself; some of her formidable looking soldiers are glimpsed herein.
GLEN AND KEN’S WHOTININNIES PODCAST CONTINUES
Last week’s installment (HERE or HERE) finds...
*** Ken and I taking on The Rings of Akhaten
** arguing snarkily about the science of 1980’s FLASH GORDON movie (this connection will become far more clear once you’ve seen Rings)
** a rapidly flying and lethal looking stinging insect attempting to buzz my head while I’m tied to the computer with his headset/mic chord
** the brief return of an old WHOTININNIES favorite
** further Brian Blessed reverb
** Ken and I completely and embarrassingly unable to recall the name of The Vigil, DARK CITY/HELLRAISERish characters who show up this week...
The new episode, which is HERE and HERE. Glen & Ken...
** bask in the greatness that is Cold War...
** discusses our enthusiastic belief that BBC/Team Moff should use those two/three minute shorts to even greater effect (say, catching up with old companions and broadening the pieces’ scopes to include vignettes of DWverse side characters, etc.)
** finds Ken & Glen proposing that Adric should show up in NuWHO, only to be summarily exploded by Strax, who enthusiastically informs the Doctor that he has just ‘destroyed an annoying girl!’...
** finds Ken asserting that the recent announcement regarding Christopher Eccleston’s non-participation in the 50th Anniversary episode is a conspiratorial ruse - and Glen attempting to explain why Eccleston not shooting NEW material may be irrelevant given today’s technical capabilities...
** and Glen attempting to figure out why Ken was Tweeting pictures of a dark drug store parking lot at some dopey hour of the night.
** And much more!
Also, per last week's podcast in which inevitable comparions were made between the rocket bike featured in The Rings of Akhaten and 1980s FLASH GORDON movie, Ken whipped up this little video...
VIDEO FROM BFI’S MIND OF EVIL PRESENTATION/PANEL IS NOW ONLINE
This one hit after last week’ Docback went live, but I wanted to share it with you anyway.
As we’ve previously mentioned, BFI is holding a series of incredible DOCTOR WHO screenings to commemorate the show’s 50th Anniversary, with guest personalities in attendance.
They recently presented a newly restored version of Mind of Evil (Pertwee, Story #56) - and Terrance Dicks, Katy Manning, John Levene, Richard Franklin, and director Timothy Combe sat down for a chat.
Here’s video of the proceedings...
COLD WAR (SPOILER FREE REVIEW)
CONTEXT: Longtime readers of the Docback know that it is my present and ongoing mission to make my way through every WHO, ever made, in whatever way possible (if an episode is ‘missing,’ as many early WHOs are, I’ll watch a ‘reconstruction,’ or listen to an audio instead). Within this process, I’ve seen some Ice Warrior appearances, but not all of them...yet.. Thus, I’m rather familiar with those bulky Martian pains-in-the-asses...but by no means do I present myself as an expert on them herein.
This is a relevant disclaimer as the Ice Warrior mythos is expanded considerably in this episode - in ways which might conceivably ruffle the feathers of some staunch purists. As far as I’m concerned, though, scripter Gatiss and Team Moffat advance an interesting spin on adversaries whose lumbering and hissing ways previously rendered them not-entirely-scary. The Ice Warrior seen herein is more fully developed, and its motivation and worldview are more defined, than we’ve ever seen before (not dissimilar to STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s treatment of Klingons). This doesn’t appear to (necessarily) undercut the Ice Warrior’s ‘fearful nemesis’ status...
...although these newly installed tweaks do render the species more comprehensible and less one-dimensionally comic booky. In a way, this enlightenment makes them a little more frightening, as a purposefully motivated creature is invariably more compelling than a cardboard caricature.
None of the unevenness of last week’s Rings of Akhaten is evident herein, nor are that stories’ stylistic shortcomings. Cold War brings to bear many of nuWHO’s coolest qualities...rich and nuanced cinematic photography by Suzie Lavelle...a Murray Gold score which is light on rehashed music and smartly used throughout...smartly deployed visual effects of at least several different ilks...sharp and clear direction by Douglas Mackinnion (The Power of Three)...and ample JLC...to forge what will almost certainly be remembered as a Season/Series 7 high point.
Cold War does lack the raw, unbridled power of Matt Smith’s staggering soliloquy in last week’s episode, although it does (as good science fiction should) zing a few concepts which position it as profoundly relevant to our current human condition, despite its ‘alien on a sub’ trappings. In the end, Cold War is about opening one’s eyes and looking beyond what we know and understand - beyond trappings which prevent us from growing ourselves and the worlds around us. As abstract as this might seem at face value, how many of us can truly say we’re completely immune to such pitfalls - or are completely successful at rising beyond the,?
Kudos to Liam Cunningham (GAME OF THRONES’ Davos - not Davros) who here puts on his best Sean Connery without ever seeming cheesy or derivative.
The inimitable David Warner also appears in a fun and substantive role - looking healthier and more on-game than a number of candid photos have suggested over the past few years. With luck, Team Moffat will find a way to squeeze his Grisenko character into another episode in the not too distant future; he plays very well against Smith and Coleman. Of course, he’s David fucking Warner...and he plays well against anybody.
When I first heard the Ice Warriors were being returned to DOCTOR WHO, the idea seemed fun and interesting, but I wasn’t fully convinced that the notion was rich enough or expansive enough to have merit (a misgiving I understand was initally shared by Steven Moffat, whose interviews reveal he had to be convinced by Gatiss). The end result here nicely reaffirms an adage I sometimes bring to the writing of my own, non-AICN-related projects: ‘There’s always and avenue or angle hiding within any story. You just gotta find it...‘ In this case, that’s exactly what they did. To exciting, and potentially expansive, results which could help shape the show over years to come.
BY THE WAY: keep an eye out for a pointed Troughton-era reference. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a line of dialogue (nor the Ice Warriors themselves, which do originate from his tenure), unless I’m completely goofing up my history.
DOCTOR WHO: Cold War transmits this Saturday April 13 on BBC America, BBC One, and Space.
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